No more excuses, Ma
Have people noticed it has been unusually warm (“Nation sees record high temperatures,” Sept. 16, page 3)? I would be inclined to be a little smug, as I predicted these record temperatures (“Climate change in Taipei,” Aug. 12, 2013, page 8), but then, it does not take a crystal ball to predict that temperatures will never be the same again. These “abnormal” temperatures will be the new normal for the foreseeable future, and they will be the new lows in the not-so-distant future, unless people stop pumping billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The response of the government to this global calamity remains that of the ostrich burrowing its head into the sand. A pointless and unenforceable anti-idling law here (“Fig-leaf environmentalism,” June 11, 2012, page 8), a few electric carts and scooters there (“Kinmen leads the way with ecotours,” Sept. 16, page 4), one tiny wind farm thrown in for good measure (“First offshore wind farms set for Changhua County,” July 26, page 13) — such non-measures amount to pissing in the wind.
This is actually an apt analogy, because the wind is the accelerating greenhouse gas concentrations and the “actions” of the decisionmakers are only marginally slowing the wind, so everyone ends up with pee in their faces.
However, most of the pee ends up in the wrong faces. While the rich just crank their ACs higher in their penthouses and SUVs, effects related to climate change fall disproportionately on the poor, who did least to cause this problem (“A warming world threatens our food supplies,” April 18, 2013, page 9).
Also, spare a thought for the plants and animals already dying from heat exhaustion, droughts, fires, storms, floods and famines. If I kicked a dog on the street, a shit storm would rain from Twitter. So where is the moral outrage against the death dealt to poor people and entire species and ecosystems?
Please, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), stop looking pretty and actually do something for once! Leave a legacy before it is too late. Wake up — climate change is a planetary emergency of the highest order, requiring urgent action. We cannot afford to let climate change be another “gutter oil” scandal, where we act when it is already too late. Tell Environmental Protection Administration Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) to stop lauding himself (“EPA minister explains his frequent overseas trips,” Sept. 18, page 3) and actually do what is required — a complete overhaul of energy production.
If power supplies run low (“Power supplies running low,” Sept. 17, page 4), the answer cannot be more fossil fuels.
Instead, all energy must be provided by clean, locally produced, risk-free, renewable sources (“Utilities getting left behind by transition to sun and wind power,” Sept. 18, page 9). Producing energy locally also increases the nation’s energy independence, instead of handing over money to a Muslim world full of dictators and terrorists (“Renewables way forward,” July 6, page 8).
Governments must act and they must act now. No more excuses. No more pissing in the wind.
Low-cost beats sustainable
It is not often I find myself agreeing with a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and questioning an environmentalist’s motives. However, this is — strangely — where I found myself when reading yesterday’s Taipei Times.
Though one article (“Groups reveal the impact of nation’s love of plastic,” Sept. 20, page 2) made the ever-valid point that Taiwan is in love with plastic bags and disposable cutlery and cups, someone got the basic numbers wrong. Upon reading it, something seemed off. Some simple math revealed that if everyone uses 2.7 bags a day, we get about 23 million Taiwanese using a whopping 62-plus million bags a day. Do that for 365 days and you get about 22 billion, not 1.8 billion per year, which is off by a factor of 10.
Next, on to the oil scare. In another article (“Legislator calls oil safe, chides companies,” Sept. 20, page 3) Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉) is a brave soul to dare to point out the obvious. The source of the oil is not the problem — well it is in a way, but not the way it is portrayed in the media. If the oil is refined and passes the necessary inspections and tests, it is indeed fit for human consumption. Very few people like to hear this or be reminded of this.
Think of it this way — for space exploration to be possible, astronauts recycle their own urine for drinking water. People are, in a way, wilfully ignorant. There was probably less wrong with the oil that Chang Guann Co (強冠企業) mixed into its products than with what is legally allowed in the hamburgers, prepared meals, buns, barbecue sauces, cheese, vegetable crackers and so on that people eat on a daily basis. Consumers do not want to know how the cattle, pigs and chickens are treated and what they are fed if the end product is cheap enough.
The plastic issue and the edible oil scare are two aspects of the same problem: People are lazy and prefer convenience and low cost over a little extra effort and a sustainable environment.
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